Mordechai Z. Cohen

Mordechai Z. Cohen
Associate Dean and Professor of Bible
Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies
Director of the Chinese-Jewish Conversation
Yeshiva University

Mordechai Z. Cohen has taught at Yeshiva University since 1988. His research focuses on Jewish Bible interpretation in its Muslim and Christian cultural contexts, and, most recently, comparisons between Chinese and Jewish interpretation of their respective ancient classical texts. An NEH fellowship Cohen was awarded in 1995 to study Arabic poetics led to his first published volume, Three Approaches to Biblical Metaphor (2003), and contributed to his second volume, Opening the Gates of Interpretation (2011), which shows how Maimonides drew upon Muslim jurisprudence and philosophy in constructing his innovative legal-exegetical system. In 2010/11, Cohen directed a fourteen-member international research group at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, leading to the publication of Interpreting Scriptures in Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Overlapping Inquiries (2016, co-edited with Adele Berlin), as well as Cohen’s next two books: The Rule of Peshat (2020), a comprehensive investigation of the medieval tradition of Jewish plain-sense interpretation in its Muslim and Christian cultural contexts; and Rashi, Biblical Interpretation, and Latin Learning in Medieval Europe (2021), which put forth a new theory of Rashi’s conception of peshat within the context of 11th century Christian interpretation.

From 2016 to 2019, and again in 2024, he has taught an annual spring seminar at the Shandong University Center for Judaic and Inter-religious studies in Jinan, China, and has participated in philosophical conferences in Beijing, Shanghai, Wenzhou, and Shenzhen. Having learned basic Mandarin, Cohen developed a network of Chinese scholars worldwide interested in engaging with Jewish learning. Since 2018 he has implemented this vision through the Chinese-Jewish Conversation (CJC), which serves as a forum for comparative study of these two cultural traditions, and also provides a welcome space on campus for YU’s growing Chinese student population.


Selected Publications

走进犹太文化 (Introduction to Jewish culture), ongoing series of online essays about Jewish beliefs, customs, history etc. in Chinese at (36 essays)

Rashi, Biblical Interpretation, and Latin Learning in Medieval Europe: A New Perspective on an Exegetical Revolution. 307pp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021.

The Rule of Peshat: Jewish Constructions of the Plain Sense of Scripture and Their Christian and Muslim Contexts, 900–1270. 405pp. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020.

Interpreting Scriptures in Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Overlapping Inquiries, edited with Adele Berlin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. 381pp., 15 plates.

Opening the Gates of Interpretation: Maimonides’ Biblical Hermeneutics in Light of His Geonic-Andalusian Heritage and Muslim Milieu. 550pp. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2011.

Three Approaches to Biblical Metaphor: From Abraham Ibn Ezra and Maimonides to David Kimhi. 375pp. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2003; 2d ed., 2008.